Recent decision of the government not to proceed with legal reform that decriminalizes homosexuality as both disappointing and a setback to a culture of protecting minority rights in general says the National Peace Council. “The presence of archaic laws does not reflect positively on either the Sri Lankan legislature or on the cultural enlightenment and tolerance of the population at large”, it further says issuing a statement.
The text of the statement follows:
As an organization that believes in equality for all and non-discrimination, the National Peace Council views the recent decision of the government not to proceed with legal reform that decriminalizes homosexuality as both disappointing and a setback to a culture of protecting minority rights in general. The presence of archaic laws does not reflect positively on either the Sri Lankan legislature or on the cultural enlightenment and tolerance of the population at large.
We reject the notion that same sex relations are criminal in nature or should be construed as such. Same sex relations are not due to modern decadence, or Western decadence as argued by some, but have been part and parcel of history from its very beginnings in all parts of the world, including Asia. There is a need for education campaigns to ensure that the thinking of society at large becomes more rational and less emotional on these issues.
According to the UN Human Rights Council, the legal obligations of States to safeguard the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people are well established in international human rights law on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequently agreed international human rights treaties ratified by Sri Lanka.
We note that same sex relations are rarely if ever prosecuted in the Sri Lankan courts. However, a recent report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues by Human Rights Watch details examples of discrimination and abuse experienced by those of a different sexual orientation.
We call on the government to take steps to repeal those sections of the Penal Code and Vagrants Ordinance that can be used by those vested with state authority to harass people of a different sexual orientation and who are thereby denied their rights to equality and non-discrimination. We also call for the eliminating of discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identities though legal reform. Civil society at all levels needs to publicly manifest support with regard to the protection and upholding of rights of sexual minorities in particular and minority rights in general.